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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Aaron Boone sticks with his same lineup in ALDS Game 3 vs. Twins

Yankees manager Aaron Boone blows a bubble during

Yankees manager Aaron Boone blows a bubble during a pregame workout before Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday at Target Field. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees used 155 different lineups over the course of the regular season to win 103 games and the AL East title.

To take a 2-0 lead in the Division Series? They stayed with No. 156.

Same nine players, same positions, same batting order — and Aaron Boone again went with the identical lineup card for Monday night’s Game 3 against the Twins at Target Field.

For the 2019 Yankees, this was a shocking development. Only once all year had they used the same lineup on consecutive days — for three straight during a September visit to Boston. 

Aside from winning, the only other consistent thing about this group was the fact that it was always changing. That was mostly because of injuries — with a record 30 players spending time on the disabled list — but the extensive data provided by the staff upstairs also goes into lineup decisions.

Armed with their usual gigabytes of information, the Yankees no doubt were tempted to tinker for Game 3 against the Twins’ Jake Odorizzi. Boone admitted as much Monday afternoon. But there’s an age-old saying that predated baseball’s analytic departments, and is a proven time-tested strategy: Don’t mess with success.

“A little bit of that,” Boone said before Game 3. “I was going to stay with the exact same personnel [but] I did consider moving some guys to different spots against Odorizzi. I do like the work and the flow we have right now. Obviously, it's a little more healthier group than we've been. So we kind of have that luxury of rolling them out in some similar spots.”

Rolling is an appropriate word. The Yankees outscored the Twins, 18-6, in the Bronx, tying their third-highest run production for the first two games of a playoff series, behind the 20 runs scored in the 1960 World Series (vs. Pirates) and the 19 in the 1936 World Series (vs. N.Y. Giants). A big reason for that seems to be the way this configuration has clicked together, as the Yankees were hitting .348 (8-for-23) with RISP, including three doubles, one homer and five walks.

“Guys are just doing their jobs,” said Aaron Judge, who has reached base safely in seven of his 10 plate appearances, including three singles, four walks and three runs scored. “It doesn’t matter the situation or who’s up.”

Judge has remained in his customary No. 2 spot, where he was anchored for all but one of his 99 starts this season — the other being leadoff. The most unusual trait of this October lineup is slotting Brett Gardner at No. 3 — he was there for only 12 of his 131 starts — but that allows Boone to give some separation between him and the only other lefthander Didi Gregorius, who’s been hitting eighth.

Gardner, coming off a career-high 28 homers, was one of the three Yankees to go deep in the first two games, along with Gregorius and DJ LeMahieu. Right behind him is Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting .444 (4-for-9) with the protection of Giancarlo Stanton at No. 5 and Gleyber Torres next up.

All nine of these Yankees’ starters had reached base multiple times, with six of them getting on at least four times each. They also were retired in order only twice during the first two games.

“That just shows you what this team can do,” Gregorius said after Saturday’s 8-2 victory in Game 2. “We're not just relying on one person. This group has always been together. If I don't do it today or don't do it right now, there's a guy behind me that I've got enough trust in him that he's going to do the job anyway. So it's always been like that for us.”

Gregorius hit third (24 times), fourth (15), fifth (17) or sixth (16) during the regular season — and seventh only once, for Game No. 162 in Texas. He never batted in the eighth spot until Friday’s Division Series opener and responded the following night with the grand slam that broke Game 2 wide open.

Boone is a favorite for Manager of the Year based on how he masterfully played the injury-riddled hand he was dealt leading up to October. Of the past five Yankees’ World Series winners, only the ’96 team came anywhere close with rookie manager Joe Torre using 131 different lineups. Next was Torre’s 2000 champ (111) followed by Joe Girardi’s ’09 crew (106).

Now on the brink of an ALCS trip, however, Boone no longer has to stress over coming up with a winning combination. So far this October, it’s never been easier.

New York Sports